The headline in our local paper was factual and restrained in tone. It gave no hint of inappropriate humor or delight in someone else’s misfortune. Still, I’m sure reporters and editors at the Journal, as well as newspaper people all over the country, were slapping one another on the back and howling with glee this week.
Why? The headline says it all: “Woman Bites Dog, May Need Shots.” (And yes, I double-checked the date on the story. It was April 3, not April 1.)
John B. Bogart, long-time editor of the Sun newspaper in New York during the late 1800’s, was the source of a saying that’s become a journalistic cliché: “When a dog bites a man, that isn’t news. It often happens. But if a man bites a dog, that is news.”
This week, in Minneapolis, it happened. Even better—just to keep the story fully up to date and politically correct for the 21st Century—the biter was a woman, not a man.
When a pit bull jumped a fence to get into her yard and attacked her Labrador retriever, Amy Rice was afraid the intruder would kill her dog. So she “took matters into her own mouth,” as the Associated Press phrased it, and bit the pit bull on the nose.
The pit bull was quarantined. The Lab went to the vet for stitches. Ms. Rice, who bit the attacking dog hard enough to draw blood, was waiting to hear whether she would have to get rabies shots.
The article, at least as published in our paper, omitted a lot of the details. Such as exactly what happened in between “biting the pit bull on the nose” and “the pit bull was quarantined.” I would think there must have been some intervening events. Screaming, perhaps. Bleeding, no doubt. And quite possibly some interesting explanations to the animal control officer.
The pit bull may, of course, be in quarantine because of the possibility of rabies. Or maybe it’s just hiding out of sheer embarrassment. It’s a pit bull, for Pete’s sake. It’s a certified bad dog, with such a fearsome reputation that its kind is even banned from entire cities.
How on earth is the poor, humiliated creature going to explain to its tough-guy pit bull buddies that it met defeat at the hands—or rather the jaws—of a mere human? It might just as well have been overpowered by a poodle.